Written by Miami Today on November 30, 2006
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NEW BOSSES: Former Florida Rep. Bruno A. Barreiro was elected to a two-year term as chairman of the Miami-Dade County Commission this week in a tight race with Vice Chairman Dennis C. Moss. Mr. Barreiro beat Mr. Moss in a 7-6 vote, then joined commissioners Natacha Seijas, Jose "Pepe" Diaz, Javier Souto and Joe Martinez in an attempt to persuade the District 9 representative to stay on as vice chairman. Mr. Moss declined, citing commission rules that forbid consecutive terms in leadership posts. But Mr. Barreiro and company weren’t easily denied. They offered to waive the rule on the spot. After Mr. Moss declined a third time, Commissioner Barbara J. Jordan, a former assistant county manager, was elected vice chairman unanimously. Mr. Barreiro and Ms. Jordan will assume their new duties, which include picking members of the commission’s committees, Jan. 19. Meanwhile, Carlos Gimenez’ plan to change the way the chairman is elected and how committee positions are assigned was killed out of hand by the commission’s controlling majority. ELECTION DAY: After lengthy court battles, Miami-Dade commissioners this week set a Jan. 23 date for a special election on a charter change that would increase the mayor’s power over county government operations. Commissioners, who stand to lose clout if the referendum passes, vowed to fight the change, pushed by Mayor Carlos Alvarez and his supporters. Commissioner Dennis C. Moss said he is drafting his own question for the special-election ballot that would ask voters to order a new mayoral election if the charter change passes. HOME SALES STABLE: While home sales dipped throughout Florida in October, sales in Greater Miami held stable despite a slight drop in median sales price, according to the Florida Association of Realtors’ monthly report. Including single-family homes and condominiums, sales totaled 1,052 units, the same total sold in October 2005. The median sales price fell 3% to $356,000 for single-family homes, however, and dropped 4% to $250,000 for condos. The slight decrease in median price might seem insignificant, but Michael Pappas, president of Keyes Company Realtors, citing Keyes’ 45 years of records, said, "There’s never been a price drop in single-family homes in Miami, ever." SHIP SHAPE: Port of Miami-Dade director Bill Johnson told county commissioners this week that he’s shaking up his department to eliminate bureaucracy, missed construction deadlines and cost overruns. During a meeting of the commission’s Community Empowerment & Economic Revitalization Committee, Mr. Johnson was authorized to pay $2.4 million to the port’s construction manager, Haskell Co. of Pembroke Pines, as the final part of a settlement in a dispute over delays that resulted in projects being completed three years late. Mr. Johnson, confirmed as director this month, said his reorganization plan will help eliminate similar delays and cost overruns by bringing construction supervision and planning in-house. Mr. Johnson said he is streamlining the port’s management process by eliminating the position of deputy director and making all assistant directors report to him. "This," he said, "will allow us to respond to issues in a timely manner and save money." SHUTTS & BOWEN HIRES: Alexander Tachmes, a real estate attorney who represents several developers in Miami Beach, has joined law firm Shutts & Bowen as a partner in Miami. He maintained a solo practice in downtown Miami for nine years after previously serving as a first assistant city attorney for Miami Beach and working for two national law firms. Mr. Tachmes completed his undergraduate and law degrees at the University of Miami in the late 1980s. CHAMBER PROMOTES: The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce has a new vice president of international business development. Liane Ventura, who previously served as the senior vice president of leadership and international programs, assumed the role last week. Ms. Ventura replaces Maria Masvidal-Visser, who leaves after two years to return to her consulting and real estate businesses, Euro Am Group and Euro Am Realty. Details: (305) 577-5445. TACKLING HEALTH-CARE ISSUES: The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce is asking its Community Business Needs Taskforce to help develop programming that will help chamber members deal with health-care issues. The task force is refining its agenda for next year and seeks members’ comments and suggestions. A survey can be downloaded from the chamber’s Web site, www.miamichamber.com. HEADHUNTERS: After months of controversy and in-fighting over the selection of its next executive director, the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority decided this week to start the process from scratch. State Department of Transportation District 6 Secretary Johnny Martinez, who sits on the authority’s board, said the toll-road agency will advertise for candidates and hire an outside consultant to help pick the right person for the job. Expressway Authority chairman Daryl Sharpton has come under fire from other board members for the way the interview process with former finalist Ysela Llort, a transportation industry veteran, was handled. Ms. Llort walked away from the executive director’s job after an impasse over salary demands. Mr. Martinez said all new candidates will be interviewed by Feb. 1. MIAMI 21 UPDATE: Miami’s Planning Advisory Board meeting at 7 tonight (11/30) is to feature a presentation updating progress in creating Miami 21 — a land-use and comprehensive master plan. City officials have hired consultants to examine six elements of the blueprint for the city’s smart-growth philosophy including economic development, transportation and historic preservation. The meeting at Miami City Hall, 3500 Pan American Drive, is public. Details: www.miami21.org. PREFERRED PROMOTES PRIETO: Preferred Care Partners, a health-care provider for 23 hospitals throughout Miami-Dade and Broward counties, promoted Jennifer Prieto to director of pharmacy. Ms. Prieto joined the company as a member-services representative in 2003. CHAMBER APPOINTS LEADER: The year-old Haitian American Chamber of Commerce of Florida named an executive director last week. Francois Guillaume Jr., a former senior accountant for computer retailer Tiger Direct, will oversee the chamber’s planning. A graduate of Florida International University, Mr. Guillaume opened his own firm specializing in financial and commodities consulting this year. STAYIN’ ALIVE: Plans to give the Jay Malina International Trade Consortium another five-year lease on life took a major step forward this week when county commissioners approved changes in the composition of the agency’s board. Under a plan to streamline the decision-making process, commissioners OK’d removing the US Department of Commerce and the Association of Bi-National Chambers of Commerce from the consortium’s board and gave a seat to the Florida Free Trade Area of the Americas. Residency requirements for board members were also lifted. Commissioners also approved a report that made a case for keeping the agency by detailing its accomplishments during its first four years. County officials say the actions this week signal the trade organization will be kept alive when the commission meets to consider that issue Dec. 5. SUPER STAR: County commissioners this week set the stage for Doral-based Brightstar Corp. to get a $520,000 tax break designed to keep the wireless distribution giant from moving its headquarters and 410 jobs to Texas. The commission’s Community Empowerment & Economic Revitalization Committee approved the tax cut, which is to be considered by the entire commission next month. Lower taxes would allow Brightstar to build a $4.5 million addition to its Miami-Dade offices and create 104 new jobs, county officials said. The county would give the company $104,000 in tax relief over the next six years — the other $416,000 would come from lower state assessments. NOT DIGGING IT: Exactly how the county will pay for a $1.2 billion tunnel at the Port of Miami-Dade is up in the air. But one thing seems certain — Miami-Dade residents don’t want to dig into their own pockets to pay for the gigantic hole in the ground. A decidedly unscientific poll on county commission Chairman Joe A. Martinez’ official Web site indicates four of five respondents oppose creation of a county tax to finance a tunnel. So far, about 250 people have participated in the online survey, which asks, "Should a countywide tax be levied to build a tunnel from the Port of Miami to the mainland?" County officials figure they’ll use tolls to pay for the big dig. BANK SHOT: A plan to lure the Inter-American Development Bank conference to Miami in 2008 was given a shot in the arm by the county commission’s Community Empowerment & Economic Revitalization Committee this week. The committee approved a request from local business leaders to authorize police protection for visiting dignitaries and participation by the Jay Malina International Trade Consortium if the conference comes to town. Representatives of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau and Florida Free Trade Area of the Americas say the conference could bring 6,000 delegates and $6 million to Miami-Dade. Atlanta, Houston and Dallas have also expressed interest in hosting the bank gathering, which brings representatives from 47 member nations. MAKING (AIR)WAVES: The City of Coral Gables is broadcasting weather alerts, announcements from its e-newsletter, information about special events and attractions and audio segments from Coral Gables Television programming on its AM radio station, Gables Radio 1620. The frequency reaches the entire city and a bit beyond, said Maria Rosa Higgins Fallon, the city’s public affairs manager. It cost $40,000 to start, including FCC licensing costs and antenna installation, and operates with no added expenses under the city’s existing 2006 budget — $950,000 — for the entire communications division, as no new staff has been hired. There are no plans to expand the station or increase the budget, she said. "Our future enhancements will be to create new programs." GROW AND GO: Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell will almost double the size of its Brickell office, moving from its 1,400-square-foot space on Brickell Key to 2,600 square feet in Mary Brickell Village. Interior construction on the new office is to begin this week, and the move is scheduled for late February, said Ron Shuffield, EWM president. The number of associates will increase from about 25 to 45, he said. "We have a lot of seasoned associates in the marketplace who are looking to make a move, and we need a place for them to work," he said. "And we’re surrounding ourselves with literally thousands of new condos." HONORABLE MENTION: Two Miami-Dade County cities, Miami Beach and Coral Gables, were finalists for the Florida League of Cities’ Florida City of Excellence award. The organization named Pembroke Pines the winner at its Nov. 17 banquet in Orlando. Miami-Dade was represented in the Council Member of the Year category, with Lewis J. Thaler of Sunny Isles Beach a finalist. GREAT EASTERN LEADERS: David E. Malinoff is president and Richard Berdy chief financial officer at Great Eastern Bank of Florida, which federal regulators recently cited. "We have all new management in place," said Mr. Malinoff, declining to comment on the regulatory action. He said he and Mr. Berdy, who have spent many years in local banking, "both know the community well." Mr. Malinoff was president and CEO of First Western Bank in Cooper City and president and CEO of Central Bank. Mr. Berdy spent about 20 years at First Western Bank, most recently as chief financial officer, Mr. Malinoff said. Mr. Malinoff replaces Ambrosio O. Rodriguez, who was interim president and remains at the bank as executive vice president and senior loan officer. The bank agreed in July to a cease-and-desist order admitting no wrongdoing after the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Florida Office of Financial Regulation said the bank engaged in "unsafe or unsound banking practices and has committed violations of laws, rules and/or regulations." The bank was similarly cited in 2000. WORRIED: Commissioner Joe A. Martinez’ young daughter is back home after being rushed to Baptist Memorial Hospital for emergency treatment of seizures. Although 3-year-old Joana Martinez hasn’t suffered another episode, the District 11 official and his family are worried about the girl, the youngest of five children, a spokesman said. Baffled doctors are running tests to find out what happened, the spokesman said. CORRECTION: In the Nov. 23 article "Health-care construction industry vigorous, experts say," Jose Estevez should have been quoted as saying MGE Architects designed Baptist Health South Florida’s new West Kendall facility.